Wednesday

19th Jun 2019

Interview

Turkish NBA star takes on Erdogan

  • It not the first time Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of abusing Interpol to track down opponents of his regime (Photo: Flickr)

Enes Kanter, the Turkish basketball star who plays for the New York Knicks, skipped his team's match in London last Thursday for what he says was fear of his life.

An outspoken critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kanter said he was afraid Turkish spies or Erdogan fanatics could kill him in London.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 2.11m-tall Enes Kanter is a Turkish star of the NBA - playing for the New York Knicks. The Turkish government accuse him of being part of a terrorist organisation (Photo: Wikimedia)

In his tweets, he argued he felt safe in New York but was not sure about what would happen in London, where a large Turkish community lives.

The Turkish authorities angrily dismissed Kanter's allegations as baseless.

However, in a bizarre development which seemed to vindicate the NBA star's fears, Turkey issued a red bulletin for his arrest while his team was on the plane to London.

Turkish prosecutors allege he is part of a terrorist organisation, an accusation the Turkish legal system often use to silence critics of the Erdogan regime.

In an interview with EUobserver, Kanter said the accusations that he was a terrorist were "silly".

Kanter has never concealed his sympathy for the Gulen movement, which Erdogan claims was behind the attempted coup against him in 2016.

The group denies any involvement.

Brussels silent?

Kanter said he was shocked by the lack of a reaction from the EU to grave human rights violations and oppression of free media in Turkey, an applicant country.

"Turkey is a candidate country trying to be a part of EU, and yet Brussels keeps silent. It is incomprehensible for me", he said.

Kanter says the EU could have at least condemned more strongly Erdogan's oppression of mothers with babies in prisons, and the gagging of journalists.

"If EU does not do what it's supposed to do, how would it be an example to other nations in terms of democracy and basic human rights?" he said.

Asked about Turkish authorities' obsession with him, he asked how an NBA player could be a threat to a huge country like Turkey?

"If Erdogan thinks my outspokenness to his tyranny would topple his regime down, then I'm right on he's a dictator. Dictators only fear from criticism and open-minded constituents, and they think their regime is under attack," Kanter said.

Kanter's refusal to join his team in London has been a major topic in the US media, where he was invited to speak on media outlets including CNN and Fox News.

NBA celebrities such as Russell Westbrook, and TV personalities like Keith Olbermann weighed in on Kanter's side - prompting furious reactions from Turkish diplomats in the US.

London has been one of the main hubs for the critics of Erdogan who have fled Turkey.

Britain has so far resisted Turkey's numerous demands for the extradition of suspected Gulenists.

In one of the high-profile cases last year, British judges refused the extradition of Akın İpek, a Turkish businessman who owned several newspapers and TV channels until 2016.

The Turkish government confiscated his fortune worth $12bn [€10.5bn] after the coup.

In May 2017, Kanter was detained for several hours at an airport in Romania, after the Turkish government canceled his travel documents.

The same year, prosecutors filed charges to sentence Kanter to more than four years in jail on charges that he had insulted Erdogan on social media.

On the arrest warrant issued by Turkish authorities, Kanter said Erdogan was abusing Interpol's system to silence his critics overseas.

He also drew attention to Turkey's alleged operations to kidnap critics and bring them back which he called "the long arms of Erdogan".

Turkish authorities have publicly announced that around 100 Gulenists have been "brought" to Turkey to stand trial.

Kanter was born in Switzerland because of his father's studies, but was raised in Turkey. However, he has not seen his family since 2015.

His family's house was raided in 2016.

Asked about if he was concerned about his family's safety, he said: "Of course I am."

Selcuk Gultasli was Brussels bureau chief of the Turkish newspaper Zaman. Zaman was closed by decree of the Turkish government in July 2016

Opinion

Erdogan's diplomats have become 'Gulenist-busters'

Under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's diplomats have been turned into agents hunting supposed followers of his opponent Fethullah Gulen, and are now suspected of harassing journalists even in Belgium.

Interview

Inside Erdogan's torture chambers

A Turkish former Nato official, living in exile in Belgium, tells EUobserver what he and others went through when the Erdogan regime branded them traitors.

News in Brief

  1. EU court rules against German highway toll for non-residents
  2. French most sceptical on safety of vaccines
  3. Facebook 'currency' met with scepticism in Europe
  4. New socialist group leader to push for Timmermans
  5. Romanian ex-PM frontrunner to head new liberal group
  6. France, Germany and Spain in fighter jet deal
  7. Tusk grilled in Poland over role as PM
  8. Italy is 'most credible' US partner in EU, says Salvini

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. EU officials prepare for US extravaganza on Palestine
  2. EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction
  3. Frontex transparency dispute goes to EU court
  4. Commission goes easy on scant national climate plans
  5. Macron and Mogherini decline to back US accusation on Iran
  6. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  7. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  8. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us